Saudi Arabia does not have the strongest track record in terms of freedom of speech or democracy. The most recent blunder for the monarchy-ruled country has been the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A long-established fact was that journalist and Saudi Arabian citizen Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey to retrieve marriage-related documents and was killed while he was inside the building. His fiancé was waiting outside for him and eventually reported his disappearance after he did not come back out.
The debate that exploded about Khashoggi’s killing was a matter of who was responsible for his murder. While obvious signs pointed towards Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the prince and high-ranking officials denied claims that the killing was ordered by the Saudi government. After a series of different and conflicting stories, the New York Times reported that the CIA concluded that prince Salman ordered the killing himself.
The conclusion may not have been shocking to those familiar with the matter. What was shocking was President Donald Trump’s response.
About a week after the CIA’s conclusion was made public, Trump announced his own reinterpretation of the new intelligence. According to the New York Times, Trump said that the CIA only had “feelings” about the killing. He also reiterated an opinion that jobs, resources and diplomatic benefits with Saudi Arabia are too important to the United States.
Trump has refused to speak out against Salman.
International diplomacy is never as simple as denouncing an immoral act followed by justice. Sovereign nations decide when and how they react to condemnation. Whether or not anything would actually change is debatable. What should be concerning is the president’s inaction.
Meanwhile, the president has consistently threatened sending troops and shutting down the southern border in response to a caravan of migrants. Trump cares more about a group of unarmed migrants than a serious threat to free speech.
In the vast sea of anti-Trump opinion thinkpieces, it is easy to lose focus. Khashoggi was a pro-free speech writer from a conflicted area of the world. He was advocating for freedom through his thoughts and words.
Silence from the top diplomat of the United States of America sends a signal to Saudi Arabia and rest of the world: murdering journalists critical to governments is okay.
This situation ascends far past party lines. It’s up to American citizens to hold their nation and Saudi Arabia accountable for crimes against free speech. A murdered journalist overseas today can easily become a murdered journalist at home tomorrow.